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Over Vaccination–Is Your Pet A Victim?

Over vaccination could be harming your pet

Is over vaccination harming your pet?  Whenever a topic or subject keeps presenting itself to me, especially within a short timeframe, I always pay attention.  Yes, this is the universe’s way of saying, “This is important–pay attention!”  The subject of over vaccination for pets kept popping up on my radar this week.  Having been personally affected by this in my own pets, I feel obligated to inform pet parents of the very serious reality of adverse reactions from over vaccination. 

Plus, I also want to share with you some ways to minimize the potential for adverse events after vaccines, as well as highlight one very brave and passionate veterinarian who is leading the charge to change the rabies vaccine law.  

Questioning over vaccination in pets

A friend of mine mentioned to me the other day that she was taking her cat to the vet that day.  When I asked what was wrong she replied, “Nothing, it’s just time to get his vaccines again.”  I replied with a series of questions including:

Has your cat been previously vaccinated?  (She answered yes)

Does he stay indoors only?  (She answered yes)

Did you know there’s a strong likelihood that your cat already has immunity to all those diseases he was vaccinated for? 

Have you ever heard of a titer test?

Did you know that revaccinating does not increase immunity to a disease but increases the likelihood of an adverse reaction?

The shock and bewilderment on her face said it all.  She had no idea–she was just doing what she thought was the right thing.  I understand–I did the same thing for many years!  

Sadly, many veterinarians will never tell clients the facts concerning over vaccination.  I want to believe in my heart that most vets truly have a heart for the best interest of our pets.  Sadly, many are more interested in profits when it comes to unnecessary vaccines.  They never offer a titer test before automatically revaccinating; nor do they thoroughly explain potential adverse reactions.  Furthermore, they are either misinformed or choose to ignore scientific data concerning immunity and over vaccination. 

Who should be determining what dose of rabies vaccine your pet is given…a vaccine maker, a law, or a veterinarian who understands dose dependency?

When it comes to the rabies vaccine, which is legally required by all states, a vet’s license is on the line.  They have the choice:  give another rabies shot every three years (which could kill a pet) or risk losing their license for not following the law. 

Dr. John Robb, DVM, has personally faced tremendous persecution and legal issues for standing up to a law not based on science.  Not surprisingly, research has shown that vaccines should be dose dependent.  Unfortunately, the rabies vaccines is a one-size fits all dose.  Therefore, rather than adjusting the amount of the dose based on weight,  the same dose is given to a 100 pound dog and a 10 pound cat.  And here is where the problem lies.  The smaller pets have a greater chance for developing adverse reactions!  

It’s a crap shoot

Additives and adjuvants in vaccines increase the risk of your pet having an adverse reaction.  An article in Animal Wellness Magazine describes them here:

These ingredients include the carrier molecules and immune stimulants (these are the adjuvants) that are intended to improve the efficacy of vaccines. They also include excipients, the inactive ingredients in vaccines that are present in only very small amounts.  They include preservatives like thimerosal (mercury) to prevent contamination; stabilizers (such as sugars or gelatin) to preserve vaccines during storage and transport; and adjuvants like the salts from metals such as aluminum and mercury.

Adjuvants act to accelerate, prolong or enhance the immune response when used together with specific vaccine antigens (e.g. the viral proteins of infectious diseases). While adjuvants are added to vaccines to boost their immune-generating effects, this also increases the risk of adverse autoimmune and inflammatory events following vaccination.

Over time the potency in a vial of vaccine can diminish, so vaccine makers design the product for long shelf life.   The newer the vial, the stronger the reaction by the immune system.  When your pet is given the vaccine you will have no way to know beforehand if the vial is new or old.  It’s like rolling the dice–are your chances for an adverse reaction great or small?  

Veterinary immunologist weighs in on revaccinations 

Dr. Ronald Schultz, PhD, Immunologist at The University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, has been studying vaccines and immunology his entire career.  His research has determined that in most cases, pets retain immunity to diseases for life after their puppy or kitten shots. 

Rather than putting pets at risk, doing a titer test is recommended before revaccinating.  A titer test measures the level of antibodies still present in the blood.  If there is an immune reaction detected no additional vaccine is needed.  In addition, revaccinating does NOT increase immunity!  Therefore, why does your vet insist on revaccinating every 1-3 years? 

 Adverse reactions from vaccines & over vaccination

As a society we have been brainwashed into thinking that revaccination for our pets is necessary.  In all the years I used to revaccinate my cats I was never given any informed consent of adverse reactions to the vaccines. 

In fact, after developing  an osteosarcoma at the injection site of my cat’s leg, the vet acknowledged that certain vaccines are known to cause tumors.  Being an indoor cat he never needed the vaccine that caused it; however, no one ever informed me of this possibility.  Had I known I assure you I would have made different choices.  Despite surgery to remove the tumor it grew back at the same spot on his leg.  Shortly thereafter another tumor developed in his lungs, which he ultimately died from.  

In case you are unaware, here is a list from Embrace Pet Insurance of possible adverse reactions to watch for whenever your pet receives a vaccine of any kind:

Most common adverse reactions

  • Vomiting
  • Facial swelling
  • Injection site swelling or lump
  • Lethargy (being unusually tired)
  • Hives
  • Shock (which can be serious)
  • Injection site pain
  • Itching
  • Injection site hair loss
  • Diarrhea

Less Common Adverse Reactions

  • Not eating
  • Fever
  • Dangerous allergic reaction and shock (anaphylaxis)
  • Trouble walking or standing (ataxia and other signs of neurological problems)
  • Lameness
  • General signs of pain
  • Hyperactivity
  • Muscle tremors
  • Heart rhythm problems (tachycardia)
  • Low platelet count (thrombocytopenia)
  • Autoimmune disorders (including mediated hemolytic anemia)
  • Death

Reporting adverse reactions

If you notice your pet having any of these reactions after receiving vaccinations please notify your veterinarian right away.  Ask them to file a report on your behalf.  Alternatively, you may also file a report yourself.  First of all, contact the vaccine maker’s veterinary services or technical service department on its website.  Embrace Pet Insurance recommends having the following information ready before you call:

  • Your pet’s breed, age, health status at the time of vaccination
  • Date of vaccination
  • Number and type of vaccinations given, including lot numbers for the vaccine(s)
  • Description of your pet’s symptoms
  • How soon after vaccination the symptoms began
  • Your pet’s outcome or prognosis (if known)

Secondly, contact the USDA Center for Veterinary Biologics at 1-800-752-6255. 

Reporting is voluntary as there is currently no mandate to report adverse reactions.  Furthermore, vaccine makers are not held liable for adverse reactions.  Nor are they obligated to compensate pet owners or veterinarians for diagnostics or treatment of pets experiencing an adverse reaction to a vaccine. 

In fact, vaccine labels direct that vaccines are only recommended for healthy pets.  Therefore, if your pet has had an adverse reaction in the past, has any kind of illness or disease, or a compromised immune system, a vaccine is contraindicated due to the risk of having a reaction.

Join the movement to Protect The Pets!

Leading the voice to change the legal requirements for the rabies vaccine and preventing over vaccination in pets is Dr. John Robb, DVM.  It has been a long road, grown through grass roots effort, to bring awareness to the seriousness of the situation and making inroads to change the laws.  His mission is simple:

~To make decisions that are in the best interest of an animal’s health.
~Prevent animals from being over-vaccinated, which can lead to illness or death. 
~Bring awareness to pet owners of the danger of over-vaccination.
~To amend the Rabies law. ​

His powerful and passionate testimony at the Connecticut Public Health hearing was recorded.  Despite presenting facts and data he was laughed at and ignored by those present.  Nevertheless, he continues to push forward and feels things are now starting to turn in his favor.  Watch part of his testimony here:


He was recently interviewed by Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, with an update on his efforts to bring about this change.  I highly recommend watching the entire interview so you can be informed, share this information with other pet parents, and get involved.  


 Influencing change

Dr. Robb is seeking volunteer coordinators at the state levels to help get the laws changed.

The role of State Administrator is to organize and educate the citizens in your State with the goal of amending the rabies law. By introducing the matching legislation as written in Connecticut accomplishes two things.

  • One, it allows a protective blood titer to replace mandated re-vaccination.
  • Two, it allows the veterinarian to adjust the dose for smaller pets while achieving the protective titer. In other words, the decision-making power is returned to the veterinarian, who, in turn, discusses them with the pet owner, instead of following outdated manufacturer recommendations never based in science to begin with!

The power is in your hands!

In conclusion, you are your pet’s best advocate, and preventing over vaccination is in your hands.  It is up to you to be her voice!   Ask for titer tests before revaccinating your pet.  Do not allow a vet to bully you into revaccinating without your consent–take your business elsewhere if so.  Also, when giving vaccines, give them one at a time at least four weeks apart.

In addition, I encourage you to share this article with anyone who loves their pets, and support Dr. Robb’s effort to get the rabies law changed in your state.   Be sure to ask your vet about any available exemptions to the rabies law as they vary state to state.  Finally, join the Protect The Pets movement–together we can make a difference!

While it’s true that vaccines play in important role in keeping our pets healthy, over-vaccination does not.   

If you want to know which vaccines are recommended for your cat check out this article.  Has your pet ever experienced an adverse reaction to a vaccine?  Leave a comment below!

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